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By midlandsmovies, Jul 26 2018 04:32PM



Call Out (2018)


Directed by Richard Miller


A deserted trading estate at night is the setting for this new short film from director Richard Miller. Call Out begins with a factory alarm ringing in our ears as a silver car pulls into a car park at night to investigate what may have triggered this wailing siren.


Pulling up we see the half-open entrance to the dingy building as two men exit their vehicle and venture inside with their torches.


Turning the deafening din off, the two members of security brazenly plan to “get this job done” but one can already feel that this may be no ordinary search for the person who has instigated this call out.


We follow one of the men (the expressive actor Richard Shields who has starred in two previous Midlands films we’ve covered - Frettin’ and The Exchange) who begins to solitarily explore the box-filled factory floor.


As light bounces of cellophane-wrapped goods, the director has a keen eye for lighting and shot composition given the darkness in the factory. The scorching flashlight beam together with the expressive sound, creates an intriguing atmosphere before a crash is heard that breaks the eerie silence.



Again, cleverly using sound – the short has no music – a walkie-talkie crackles into life as we hear some ghoulish communications over the radio waves. Creaking doors and cold footsteps give way to a visit to a lorry where the guard turns off the spooky and strange voices echoing from a radio in the main cab. More peculiar however, he then finds his colleagues’ hat discarded on the factory floor.


But before we know it, a freakish person appears and we hear a terrifying scream as we quickly exit the building, before a dark twist back in the car from the beginning brings the film to a mysterious conclusion.


Call Out is a short sharp shocker with an interesting premise that veers into horror territory from its realistic depiction of a monotonous alarm check. For me the “intruder” could have been designed ever-so-slightly better but this is a minor criticism when the technical aspects – especially the sound – are what sells the film.


With the right blend of a good idea, combined with a flourish of technical proficiency, Call Out is a fantastic short which squeezes a lot of story narrative (show don’t tell, film folks!) with little fuss into its short run time. One well worth investigating on its release.


Midlands Movies Mike



By midlandsmovies, Jun 29 2018 11:56AM



Wasted


(2018)


Directed by Lee Price. Homebird Films


We open on old home video footage of a young man in local filmmaker Lee Price’s new feature Wasted, made by his Homebird Films production company.


Having previously co-directed the great Neville Rumble, Price delivers Wasted as a follow to his last film Frettin’. That film was a musical odyssey made in Hinckley and Nuneaton which had a nomad-like story of a wandering guitar player and the slice-of-life scrapes he gets into and Price tackles similar themes in Wasted also.


We soon quickly jump to a young homeless man called John (George Welton) who is shown down on his luck on the streets, drinking his days away in city centres and alleys. Slowly revealing the struggles he faces, Price delivers good musical score choices which compliment John’s loneliness and isolation as he tries to find food and scraps to survive.


10 minutes in though and we have very little narrative, in what I assumed was a much more art-house film style. John’s actions show what he is up against but unfortunately shine very little light on the character. John’s selfish actions garnered little sympathy from me which became a problem later on as he is almost the sole character for the entire film.


As he gets caught breaking and entering, hoping to get revenge on those he feels have wronged him, we get some passable fight scenes but these are too thinly spread throughout the film which relies heavily on long, esoteric dreamy shots of John’s world with only a tiny amount of development.


On a technical level, the film looks good with high production values I could find little fault with. Wasted was filled with well composed shots, understandable editing and some Suspiria-inspired red/green lighting which gave the film a horror vibe at a number of points during the movie.


Sadly though, despite these positives, little of consequence really happens at all. There is almost no dialogue in its entire runtime and the few lines that are uttered are simply delivered by almost anonymous characters telling John to “eff off”. In one scene, our central character is spinning around aimlessly in a town centre with no apparent meaning or coordination – a metaphor if you will for the film’s somewhat haphazard construction.


In my review Frettin’ I mentioned the lack of narrative when compared to the film’s extended length, and found a similar absence here. John stares into a mirror, John gets drunk and John gets accosted by members of the public as a “weirdo” or “ratboy”. These types of sequences are repeated over and over again but do not enlighten the audience about this person and their journey. The repetition soon became frustrating.


George Welton is good as John who despite not being given much dialogue to work with, expresses what he can with subtle (and not so subtle) scenes of introspection and degradation. As an almost silent mood piece it would work as a 20-minute short but at 1 hour 30 minutes for me it was too long – disappointing considering the director’s previous films. Scene after scene of drunken recollections and/or getting confronted by various passing characters simply failed to engage me fully. It wouldn’t be much of a stretch to say that if you added the first ten mins to the last the last ten mins and cut the entire middle you'd essentially have the same story.


With high expectations and for all the excellent techincal quality, I therefore feel it's a shame then that the film ended up being a slightly wasted opportunity to show a man at the end of his tether and battling his demons.


Midlands Movies Mike



By midlandsmovies, Dec 2 2016 05:05PM



Frettin’ (2016)

Directed by Lee Price


Beginning with well composed shots of rural Midlands combined alongside a rustic acoustic soundtrack, Frettin’ is the new feature from regional filmmaker Lee Price.


Price tells the tale of a man (Jake, played well by the quirky Richard Shields) who rejects the apparent riches of urban society for something more fulfilling as a busker, living a care-free life of creativity and freedom. Conversely, trapped in his money making world of jingles and sales pitches, advertising executive Tim (a first-rate dour performance by Craig Spencer) hits rock bottom and an unlikely friendship emerges between them.


With comedy mixed with pathos, Price uses clever edits to highlight their contrary standards of living with Tim’s stuffy corporate briefcase paralleling Jake’s guitar case – both of which encompass their lives at that point.


After discouraging Tim from an apparent suicide the two bond over food (“How will sir take his beans?”), accommodation (a small two-berth tent) and the great wilderness outside. Jake’s day-to-day free existence highlights the madness of the working world, whilst Tim’s coherent and rational persona highlighting the folly of Jake’s.


The film takes you on a journey through the countryside as Jake and Tim develop a believable father-son relationship, with Jake being equal part philosopher and (drunk) poet and Tim playing the straight role, asking questions as to why and how they’ve ended up in this predicament.


With room for improvement on some of the night-time shots which seem a little under-lit and therefore difficult to follow, the rest of the film beautifully captures the corn fields, brooks and hedgerows of the Warwickshire countryside. As they venture back to town centres, the camera work becomes less exciting but reflects the humdrum anonymous lives of those in the bustling high streets and pubs.


A question to ask is whether there is enough drama here in their travels to justify a 2-hour runtime? This reviewer thinks not quite. The protagonists are almost solely the only characters you follow and it’s a bit arduous to sit through a barrage of head-to-head dialogue scenes. I also wonder if the music was written for the film or the film around pre-existing tracks. I could be wrong but possibly the latter at sometimes as the narrative structure was a little forced.


The film had me questioning some of the morals of the two men also. What is presented as cheeky travel banter can sometime come across as cruel as they steal, lie and expect things of life I felt they failed to deserve. This portrayed romanticism clashing with the realist in me. However, later on, some melancholic despair and violence demonstrated a few sad realities as their old and new lives collided and provided heightened drama at the film’s conclusion which re-engaged me to their plight.


That said, these are brief and not too off-putting and the acting is very natural, especially Richard Shields as Jake who holds the film together with a likeable performance and also a fantastic and naturalistic cameo from Catherina Nellany as an eccentric bag lady they pick up in the third act. The humorous songs (a football ditty, “Balls, balls, balls, They’re in it for the balls”) were jaunty and cheerful and had a dash of dreamy wish fulfilment thrown in too which was enjoyable. Although avoid if you don’t like acoustic music as the film is filled to the brim with it.


With funny moments, from an ‘audition’ in a shop shower showroom to the young girl’s pink tent they end up sharing, to darker scenes of regret and painful pasts, the film moves smoothly between these differing tones without being jarring.


Frettin’ is therefore a film which wears its world-warming heart on its sleeve with a fond devotion for all things pastoral and trouble-free. Although a shorter running length would help convey its simple tale of straightforwardness better, Frettin is still a great example of a film with a strong central idea. It’s then delivered with clear-cut direction and is both effortless and easy to watch. An unpretentious pleasure.



7/10


Midlands Movies Mike





By midlandsmovies, Nov 6 2016 10:23AM



Frettin’ is the new film from filmmaker Lee Price and Midlands Movies takes an in-depth look at this exciting new project.


Frettin’ is described as a buddy movie by its director Lee Price but the filmmaker also thinks the feature slots into the mystery genre as it follows the strange tale of two men living off-grid near a canal just a couple of miles from their old lives in society. A human interest story, the characters Jake and Tim centre the narrative and their dialogue covers serious themes of suicide, support with Price adding a father-son-esque dynamic influenced by Steven Spielberg


“My pitch for Frettin’ was a British Midnight Cowboy”, says Price. The lead role of Jake is played by local musician Richard Shields who the director knew from a band before shooting had even began and Craig Spencer was added after Price identified a great good chemistry between the two men. The canals of the surrounding area seemed the perfect place to act as a “rich visual source” for a cinematic story and before too long, Price began shooting his self-written script.


With a story focused on leaving a life behind, Lee Price jokes it may be “the shortest distance travelled in any road movie” but says he was influenced by Hitchcock’s drip-feeding of information whilst creating the screenplay hence the dip into the mystery genre. Frettin’ is also influenced by Robert Rodriguez’s book ‘Rebel Without a Crew’ which is understandable given Price’s solitary quest to write, direct and act as producer on his project.

Hailing from the same town as Gareth Edwards and Ken Loach (Nuneaton in Warwickshire), Price has decided to focus on the local and small but still ensure Frettin’ aims to include universal themes dealing with family, friendship and loss. Price also explains that the characters spoke to him very quickly and was adamant the film used colloquial Midlands dialects to maintain the feeling of closeness.


Costing just £500, Price then threw himself into organising all the logistics of his micro-budget feature but says he is pleased to have struck gold with the inclusion of Bradgate Films to produce his next work.


“Frettin’ is my second feature film and, for better or worse, it’s all me”, says Price and adds that as there’s so little money for filmmakers then why not go for broke and try to implement your own vision. “It’s a pure expression of where I am as a film-maker, emotionally and the technically”.



Currently in the final stages of post-production, Nottingham musician Steve Pinnock is set to add on music and then finally Price will be ready for a big marketing push, adding the final touch to a project he says used a “necessity leading to invention” attitude.


With his third feature Killing With Alice already written and pre-production, Price has moved to Hinckley where he has got involved in the nearby Roots to Shoots festival and even has an eclectic dream he still has yet to fulfil.


“I want to make Gremlins 3 for a big US studio” says Price. “If Joe Dante or Spielberg is reading, I can pack a toothbrush!”.


And a filmmaker who wants to build upon the previous sequel’s fantasy-comedy-horror-family-drama-musical themes is certainly one with big ambitions.”But Frettin’ is unashamedly English, a story based in Nuneaton, the Midlands, and proud of that fact”, concludes Price. And with that, Midlands Movies thinks the director-writer will soon be joining his peers – the alumni of Loach and Edwards – very soon indeed. That’ll do him.


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